Santa Clara University president resigns following misconduct allegations

Santa Clara University President Kevin O’Brien, a Jesuit priest, has resigned following misconduct allegations. 

O’Brien notified the university's board of trustees of his departure on Sunday and the board accepted his resignation the following day. 

He was placed on leave in March for alleged misconduct involving conversations in adult settings, the university confirmed. 

It's unknown what O'Brien said, but the problems arose during dinners with graduate students where alcohol was consumed, the university's trustees said.

The Jesuit West Province conducted an independent investigation into the allegations and found that he did engage in behavior inconsistent with Province protocols.

The Santa Clara University Board of Trustees said in a statement Wednesday, "The Province has advised the Board of Trustees that it has concluded its investigation which found Father O’Brien engaged in behaviors, consisting primarily of conversations, during a series of informal dinners with Jesuit graduate students that were inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries. The Province also advised the Board that alcohol was involved and that no inappropriate behavior was found in any settings outside of these dinners."

Based on the findings, O'Brien was instructed to remain on leave and enroll in a therapeutic outpatient program, which he started, to address related personal issues. 

However, he decided to leave his post as the university's president. 

The board of trustees plans to establish the process of searching for the university's next president. 

In the meantime, Lisa Kloppenberg will continue to serve as acting president.

O’Brien has been a priest for 15 years, serving for eight of them at Georgetown University where he befriended President Joe Biden’s family. In January, he celebrated Catholic mass on Inauguration Day with the Bidens and Vice President Kamala Harris’ family.

The 54-year-old former lawyer was appointed as Santa Clara University’s president in 2019. One of his priorities was fostering a culture of respect, transparency and accountability, according to his biography on the university’s website.